Ever wondered what you looked like in binary?
What is a digital twin?
Digital twins have been around for years, but now we’re finding new uses for them. Just about anything can have a digital twin, from a marine vessel to a person (and we’re dealing with the latter here).
Your digital twin is a virtual copy of you that can be analyzed without your presence.
We’re not yet at the point at which your entire consciousness can be uploaded to a machine, but digital replicas still pose ethical issues. For example, you wouldn’t even know if someone was running experiments on your digital twin to make predictions about you.
Building your digital profile requires collecting massive amounts of data. If you want a fancy digital copy of yourself, expect to share everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already encouraged us to loosen some of our data privacy settings, providing companies with even more data.
You just have to hope that your digital twin gets built with your permission.
We’ve already covered personalized medicine in the past and digital patients are an extension of that. Combining things like whole genome sequencing and data from wearables can give physicians an idea of how you might react to a variety of treatments and interventions.
Virtual brains and hearts have been used to run simulations for years. But more data means more predictive power.
Imagine that in the future, we have a patient with all their organ functions, all their cellular functions, and we are able to simulate this complexity,” explained cardiologist Benjamin Meder, who is testing Siemens Healthineers’ digital heart software. “We would be able to predict weeks or months in advance which patients will get ill, how a particular patient will react to a certain therapy, which patients will benefit the most. That could revolutionize medicine.
Of course, this technology will require significant financial resources, more computing power, and the ability to collect all of the relevant information.
Needless to say, this technology will not be available to everyone. And plenty of people won’t want it.
There are, of course, issues of privacy. Who has access to your digital twin – and for what purposes?
Can someone know too much and use it to harm you? Or is this a safe way to experiment on humans?
“Digital Twins and the Promise of Personalized Medicine” (The Medical Futurist, 2020)
Caroline Copley, “Medtech Firms Get Personal With Digital Twins” (Reuters, 2018)
Barbara Rita Barricelli, Elena Casiraghi, Jessica Gliozzo, Alessandro Petrini, and Stefano Valtolina, “Human Digital Twin for Fitness Management” (IEEE, 2020)
Forbes Technology Council, “How Far Bio-Digital Twins Have Come, And What May Be Next” (Forbes, 2020)